Hiking and Traveling in Patagonia

The Ultimate Guide

Patagonia comes from "Patagones", the name given by the Portuguese mariner Magellan to the incredibly strong and tall native population found on that land during his 1520 expedition. It is now believed that they were Tehuelches, a population taller than their European counterparts. Delimited by the Rio Colorado at the north and by Cape Horn at the south, Patagonia spans a massive 1,043,076 square kilometers, but counts less than one inhabitant per square kilometer. While mostly arid, this fascinating land offers a diversity of landscapes and endless spaces where nature thrives. The majority of Patagonia is part of Argentina but some areas also belong to Chile

Regions of Patagonia Regions of Patagonia
The main activity in Patagonia is hiking, as the region is filled with stunning national parks. Every year, thousands of trekkers come to towns such as El Chalten to explore the world-class treks found around the village and cross the border to Chile, to hike around the national park Torres del Paine, famous for its W trek. However for those who like to discover the landscape by other means and experience other types of sensations, Argentina is also famous for its gaucho culture, so you may enjoy an afternoon or even a few days of cabalgata, or horseback riding. Many other adventurous activities such as kayak, rafting, paragliding, and also skiing during winter can be fun to experience during your trip to Patagonia.

For those who enjoy road trips, renting a car around the area of the Seven Lakes is a great option to explore the beautiful region. You must not leave Patagonia without having seen one of its spectacular glaciers, especially the Perito Moreno, considered to be the most impressive of all. If you are interested in discovering Patagonia's extensive wildlife, you must explore the east coast, such as the Peninsula Valdes. Whales, sea lions, penguins and also guanacos, nandus and many other fascinating animals can be observed from there. If you go all the way down to Tierra del Fuego, in Ushuaia, also named "The End of The World", you must go on a boat excursion on the Beagle Canal, in which you may choose to see penguins and sea lions. Finally, for those who wish to have a break from all the hiking and other sporty activities and would like to learn more about Patagonia and its history, you will find that most cities and villages have interesting museums that are worth having a look around.

How to get around the region

By Bus

Taking the public bus (el micro) is probably the easiest and cheapest way to travel in Patagonia as there are no more railroads in Argentina. Buses are very comfortable and if you decide take the road during the night to save some time and accommodation fees, you can opt for a bed seat, called ejecutivo cama. All the information on bus timetables and availability can be found at the local tourism offices or on www.busplus.com.ar/ and https://www.omnilineas.com.ar/. It is possible to book your tickets online but you will need to bring the printed tickets to be accepted on the bus. Buying your tickets at the bus station, called Terminal de ómnibus, is very easy and can be done less than an hour before departure during low season. Please note that bus timetables vary a lot during high and low seasons. While the Ruta 40 is accessible by car all year long, buses do not go any more south than Esquel on the Ruta 40 from the beginning of March to the end of September, as this part of the road is not properly built, and is usually covered in snow and ice during winter. Therefore only experienced and well-equipped drivers should think about taking the Ruta 40 all the way down during this period of the year. Bus prices can vary from USD$5 to USD$150 depending on the length of the trip and the type of seat chosen.

By Car

While having a car will definitely give you more liberty during your trip (times of departure, exploring areas where buses don't go, useful for camping), choosing to travel through Patagonia by car has to be well thought. It requires a higher budget and more time than travelling by bus. You will also have to be well equipped, as you will go through never ending straight roads in the middle of the pampa, but also many tracks that require prudence. Car rental agencies include http://www.rentcarargentina.com.ar, https://www.hertz.com.ar, http://www.avis.com.ar/index_cotizador.asp, https://www.sixt.com.ar and are easy to find on the Internet. Be aware that if your itinerary is not a loop, many car rental agencies will charge you for not returning the car at the same location where you started. Also, it is better to rent a car directly in the city rather than at the airport where, in addition to a tax, the price to rent a vehicle is raised by 20%.

By Plane

If you have a higher budget, you may also choose to travel by plane to the few cities that have airports in order to save some time. Prices can vary from USD$150 to USD$450 depending on the length of the trip, the season during which you are travelling and how early you book your tickets. The company Aerolineas Argentinas provides flights everywhere in Patagonia (http://www.aerolineas.com.ar), as well as LATAM Airlines if you wish to go to the Chilean side (www.latam.com/Viajes/Aerolinea).

Advised itinerary and when to travel

Seasons in Patagonia:
Spring - transition months: September, October and November.
Summer - hottest months: December, January and February.
Autumn - transition months: March, April and May.
Winter - coldest months: June, July and August.

Travelling during low season: If you love the snow, winter landscapes, skiing and travelling during low season with few tourists and lower prices, you should definitely visit Patagonia during end of autumn or beginning of spring. While you will get all the advantages of travelling during low season, you will also be able to enjoy a sunny weather, still very cold but manageable. While a few activities (hikes, excursions) will begin to close (end of autumn) or still be closed (towards spring), you will definitely be able to do most of the essential activities and to fully enjoy some of them as you might find that you have a hiking path all to yourself! The differences in prices between low and high season are not tremendous but you will probably be able to save some money on deals with accommodation and a few other fees.

Travelling during high season: If you have specific activities in mind that you wish to do such as camping, driving through Ruta 40 all the way down, specific hike trails then you should definitely consider travelling around summer time. However be aware that as you get further south, temperatures during summer will not exceed 20°C/68°F and the wind may remain very strong.

Suggested Itineraries for Patagonia

The Seven Lakes Road, Skiing and Hiking (2 Weeks)

Click for larger view
Day 1: Buenos Aires / San Martin de los Andes
Take a bus to San Martin de los Andes. Spend a relaxing day in the small town, visit its museum and get organized for your first day of trekking.

Day 2: San Martin de los Andes
Spend a day hiking around the famous Parque Nacional Lanin. Adventure seekers may prefer to begin the trip with other activities such as rafting, canoe or horseback riding.

Day 3: San Martin de los Andes / Villa la Angostura
Rent a car or take a bus to explore the Road of the Seven Lakes between San Martin de los Andes and Villa la Angostura.

Day 4: Villa la Angostura
If you are travelling during winter, enjoy a ski day at the Cerro Baryo. During summer, you can also explore the area by hiking around the Cerro Inacayal and the Cerro Belvedere, where you will get a spectacular view over the region.

Day 5: Villa la Angostura
Spend a day hiking in the Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes to discover the beautiful and unique Arrayanes trees.

Day 6: Villa la Angostura / Puerto Varas
Take a bus to Puerto Varas (Chile) and discover the charming little town.

Day 7: Puerto Varas
Enjoy an activity of your choice. Kayak, paddle, canyoning, rock climbing, ski, fishing, trekking in the Cochamo and Rio Puelo Valley or around the Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales.

Day 8: Puerto Varas / Bariloche
Take the bus to Bariloche. Explore the town and its famous cathedral, visit its museums to learn more about Patagonia's history, and organize the activities you wish to do in Bariloche.

Day 9: Bariloche
Spend a day skiing around Argentina's most famous ski station, the Cerro Catedral. If you are travelling during summer, you can still enjoy the view from the Cerro Catedral and you may also want to go up the Cerro Otto.

Day 10: Bariloche
Hike around the Parque Nacional Nahuel Napi or discover the Cerro Tronador and the Cascadas Los Alerces of the Parque Nacional Los Alerces

Day 11: Bariloche / El Bolsón
Climb up the Cerro Campanario for its breath-taking panoramic view and enjoy your last moments in the stunning area of Bariloche with a hike in the Parque Municipal Llao Llao. Take a bus in the evening to El Bolsón.

Day 12: El Bolsón
If you arrive on a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday, discover the town's famous artisanal market. Otherwise enjoy a day of the activity of your choice, hiking, skiing, relaxing around Lago Puelo or Lago Azul.

Day 13: El Bolsón / Esquel
Take a bus to Esquel. Enjoy a tour on the legendary La Trochita train or explore one of the many hikes around the city to get a panoramic view on the area.

Day 14: Esquel
Ski at the Cerro La Hoya for those who are travelling during winter, or hike around the Parque Nacional Los Alerces to discover the famous Alerces trees of Patagonia.

Hiking to the End of The Earth (2 Weeks)

by G Adventures
$3739
15 days
Day 1: Buenos Aires/El Chaltén
Flight to El Calafate in the morning. Wander around the town and visit the Reserva Laguna Nimez, where you will observe flamingos and other spectacular bird species. Take a bus in the end of afternoon to El Chaltén.

Day 2: El Chaltén
Hiking of your choice around El Chaltén, also called the "Trekking Capital".

Day 3: El Chaltén
Hiking of your choice.

Day 4: El Chaltén/El Calafate
Enjoy a short hike in the morning and take a bus in the end of afternoon back to El Calafate.

Day 5: El Calafate
Visit the Glaciarium museum in the morning and book your excursion to the Perito Moreno for the afternoon.

Day 6: El Calafate / Puerto Natales
Take a bus towards Puerto Natales and enjoy some time in the town. Visit its history museum or hike towards the Mirador Dorotea, if you have time.

Day 7: Puerto Natales / Torres del Paine
Take a bus to Torres del Paine and start the W trek or other hikes in the Park.

Day 8: Torres del Paine
Hiking and camping.

Day 9: Torres del Paine
Hiking and Camping.

Day 10: Torres del Paine / Puerto Natales
Take a bus back to Puerto Natales. If you did not have the chance to do it before and if you have time, walk to the Mirador Dorotea. You can also choose to directly take a bus to Punta Arenas.

Day 11: Puerto Natales / Punta Arenas
Take a bus towards Punta Arenas. Discover the town, its museums, market, cemetery, plazas and panoramic views or if you have a full day, leave for an excursion to the Isla Magdalena or to the Fuerte Bulnes and Puerto del Hambre.

Day 12: Punta Arenas / Ushuaia
Take a bus towards Ushuaia.

Day 13: Ushuaia
Visit one of Ushuaia's museum in the morning and enjoy a boat excursion on the Beagle Canal in the afternoon to discover 'The End of the World' and see sea lions and penguins.

Day 14: Ushuaia
Spend a day trekking in the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego.

Day 15: Ushuaia/Buenos Aires
Fly back to Buenos Aires.


Central and Southern Patagonia (3 Weeks)

by G Adventures
$0
1 days
Day 1: Buenos Aires / San Carlos de Bariloche
Fly to Bariloche in the morning. Explore the town and its famous cathedral, visit its museums to learn more about Patagonia's history, and organize the activities you wish to do in Bariloche.

Day 2: San Carlos de Bariloche
Spend a day skiing around Argentina's most famous ski station, the Cerro Catedral. If you are travelling during summer, you can still enjoy the view from the Cerro Catedral and you may also want to go up the Cerro Otto.

Day 3: San Carlos de Bariloche / Puerto Varas
Hike around the Parque Nacional Nahuel Napi or discover the Cerro Tronador and the Cascadas Los Alerces of the Parque Nacional Los Alerces. You can also decide to climb up the Cerro Campanario for its breath-taking panoramic view and enjoy your last moments in the stunning area of Bariloche with a hike in the Parque Municipal Llao Llao

Day 4: Bariloche / Puerto Varas
Take a bus to Puerto Varas and discover the charming little town and decide on which activity you wish to do.

Day 5: Puerto Varas
Enjoy an activity of your choice. Kayak, paddle, canyoning, rock climbing, ski, fishing, trekking in the Cochamo and Rio Puelo Valley or around the Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales.

Day 6: Puerto Varas / Punta Arenas
Fly to Punta Arenas in the morning. Discover the town, its museums, market, cemetery, plazas and panoramic views.

Day 6: Punta Arenas
Discover a penguin colony with an excursion to the Isla Magdalena or spend the day at the legendary Fuerte Bulnes & Puerto del Hambre.

Day 7: Puerto Natales / Puerto Natales / Torres del Paine
Enjoy a beautiful bus trip towards Puerto Natales and then a bus towards Torres del Paine. You can do the famous W Trek only if you have minimum 4 days to spend in the park. Otherwise there are many other beautiful treks.

Day 8: Torres del Paine
Hiking and camping.

Day 9: Torres del Paine
Hiking and camping.

Day 10: Torres del Paine / Puerto Natales
Take a bus back to Puerto Natales.

Day 11: Puerto Natales / El Calafate
Take the bus to El Calafate in the morning. Wander around the town and visit the Reserva Laguna Nimez, where you will observe flamingos and other spectacular bird species.

Mt. Fitz Roy
Day 12: El Calafate
Visit the Glaciarium museum in the morning to learn more about glaciers before going to the Perito Moreno in the afternoon.

Day 13: El Calafate / El Chaltén
Take a bus to El Chalten in the morning and enjoy a short hike in the afternoon around the 'Trekking Capital'.

Day 14: El Chaltén
Hiking of your choice.

Day 15: El Chaltén
Hiking of your choice.

Day 16: El Chaltén/El Calafate
Enjoy a short hike in the morning and take a bus in the end of afternoon back to El Calafate.

Day 17: El Calafate/Ushuaia
Take a bus towards Ushuaia.

Day 18: Ushuaia
Visit one of Ushuaia's museum in the morning and enjoy a boat excursion on the Beagle Canal in the afternoon to discover 'The End of the World' and see sea lions and penguins.

Day 19: Ushuaia
Spend a day trekking in the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego.

Day 20: Ushuaia / Buenos Aires
Fly back to Buenos Aires.


All of Patagonia: Travelling for more than a month

Day 1: Buenos Aires / San Martin de los Andes
Take a bus to San Martin de los Andes. Spend a relaxing day in the small town, visit its museum and get organized for your first day of trekking

Day 2: San Martin de los Andes
Spend a day hiking around the famous Parque Nacional Lanin. Adventure seekers may prefer to begin the trip with other activities such as rafting, canoe or horseback riding.

Day 3: San Martin de los Andes / Villa la Angostura
Rent a car or take a bus to explore the Road of the Seven Lakes between San Martin de los Andes and Villa la Angostura.

Day 4: Villa la Angostura
If you are travelling during winter, enjoy a ski day at the Cerro Baryo. During summer, you can also explore the area by hiking around the Cerro Inacayal and the Cerro Belvedere, where you will get a spectacular view over the region.

Day 5: Villa la Angostura
Spend a day hiking in the Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes to discover the beautiful and unique Arrayanes trees.

Day 6: Villa la Angostura / Puerto Varas
Take a bus to Puerto Varas (Chile) and discover the charming little town.

Day 7: Puerto Varas
Enjoy an activity of your choice. Kayak, paddle, canyoning, rock climbing, ski, fishing, trekking in the Cochamo and Rio Puelo Valley or around the Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales.

Day 8: Puerto Varas / Bariloche
Take the bus to Bariloche. Explore the town and its famous cathedral, visit its museums to learn more about Patagonia's history, and organize the activities you wish to do in Bariloche.

Cerro Catedral
Day 9: Bariloche
Spend a day skiing around Argentina's most famous ski station, the Cerro Catedral. If you are travelling during summer, you can still enjoy the view from the Cerro Catedral and you may also want to go up the Cerro Otto.

Day 10: Bariloche
Hike around the Parque Nacional Nahuel Napi or discover the Cerro Tronador and the Cascadas Los Alerces of the Parque Nacional Los Alerces

Day 11: Bariloche / Esquel
Climb up the Cerro Campanario for its breath-taking panoramic view and enjoy your last moments in the stunning area of Bariloche with a hike in the Parque Municipal Llao Llao. Take a bus to Esquel.

Day 12: Esquel
Enjoy a tour on the legendary La Trochita train or explore one of the many hikes around the city to get a panoramic view on the area.

Day 13: Esquel
Ski at the Cerro La Hoya for those who are travelling during winter, or hike around the Parque Nacional Los Alerces to discover the famous Alerces trees of Patagonia.

Day 14: Esquel / Rio Futaleufu
Take a bus to Futaleufu.

Day 15: Rio Futaleufu
Visit the biggest private park of chile, the Parque Pumalin or enjoy a day of watersports in the beautiful surroundings of Futaleufu.

Day 15: Rio Futaleufu / Coyhaique
Take a bus to Coyhaique.

Day 16: Coyhaique
Walk 1h30 to reach the Reserva Nacional Coyhaique, where you will get a beautiful panoramic view. Or enjoy a beach day at the Lago Elizalde, only 33 km away from Coyhaique or a kayak trip for those adventure-seekers.

Day 17: Coyhaique / Los Antiguos or Perito Moreno (town)
Take a bus or a ferry either to Los Antiguos or the town of Perito Moreno, both found on the Argentinean side. Visit the well-known and spectacular but unfortunately difficult to access, Cueva de Las Manos in the afternoon.

Day 18: Los Antiguos or Perito Moreno (town) / El Chaltén
Take a bus to to El Chalten.

Day 19: El Chalten
Hiking of your choice.

Day 20: El Chalten
Hiking of your choice.

Day 21: El Chaltén / El Calafate
Enjoy a short hike in the morning and take a bus in the end of afternoon back to El Calafate.

Moreno Glacier
Day 22: El Calafate
Visit the Glaciarium museum in the morning to learn more about glaciers before going to the Perito Moreno in the afternoon.

Day 23: El Calafate / Puerto Natales
Wander around the town and visit the Reserva Laguna Nimez, where you will observe flamingos and other spectacular bird species. Take a bus in the end of afternoon to Puerto Natales.

Day 24: Puerto Natales / Torres del Paine
Takes a bus towards Torres del Paine to start the famous W trek.

Torres del Paine
Day 25: Torres del Paine
W Trek and camping.

Day 26: Torres del Paine
W Trek and camping.

Day 27: Torres del Paine / Puerto Natales
End of the W trek and bus back to Puerto Natales.

Day 28: Puerto Natales / Punta Arenas
Take a bus towards Punta Arenas. Discover the town, its museums, market, cemetery, plazas and panoramic views or if you have a full day, leave for an excursion to the Isla Magdalena or to the Fuerte Bulnes and Puerto del Hambre.

Day 29: Punta Arenas / Ushuaia
Take a bus towards Ushuaia.

Ushuaia, Argentina Ushuaia, Argentina
Day 30: Ushuaia
Visit one of Ushuaia's museums in the morning and enjoy a boat excursion on the Beagle Canal in the afternoon to discover 'The End of the World' and see sea lions and penguins.

Day 31: Ushuaia / Trelew
Spend a day trekking in the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. Fly to Trelew in the evening.

Day 32: Trelew / Puerto Madryn
Take a bus to Puerto Madryn in the morning and discover the city and its museums in the afternoon.

Day 33: Puerto Madryn / Puerto Piramides
Take a bus to Puerto Piramides in the morning and enjoy activities in the Peninsula Valdes such as kayaking with the whales, whales watching on an excursion boat, walking along the 3km beach Playa del Molino.

Day 34: Peninsula Valdes
Sleep at Puerto Piramides. Visit the Punta Norte or the Punta Cantor in the Peninsula Valdes to discover more of its wildlife.

Day 35: Puerto Piramides / Puerto Madryn / Buenos Aires
Take a bus back to Puerto Madryn. Either take a bus back to Buenos Aires or take a bus to Trelew to fly back to Buenos Aires.


Only in Chilean Patagonia (3 to 4 Weeks)

Day 1: Temuco
Fly to Temuco in the morning and discover the city in the afternoon. Do not miss the Monumento Natural Cerro Nielol and the Museo Regional de La Araucania.

Day 2: Temuco
Hike in the beautiful Parque Nacional Conguillio, made of forests, lakes and canyons and famous for its reserve of Chilean araucarias trees.

Day 3: Vallarica
Take a bus to Villarica (you can also stay in Pucon). Hike or enjoy a watersport such as rafting or kayak in the Parque Nacional Villarrica, famous for its volcanoes or the Parque Nacional Huerquehue, famous for its forest of lengas trees.

Day 4: Vallarica
Enjoy a day trip on a sled dog excursion or visit the peaceful village of Curarrehue, perfect if you wish to immerse yourself into the Mapuche culture.

Day 5: Vallarica / Puerto Varas
Take a bus to Puerto Varas and discover the charming little town.

Day 6: Puerto Varas
Enjoy an activity of your choice. Kayak, paddle, canyoning, rock climbing, ski, fishing, trekking in the Cochamo and Rio Puelo Valley or around the Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales.

Day 7: Puerto Varas
Enjoy an activity of your choice. Kayak, paddle, canyoning, rock climbing, ski, fishing, trekking in the Cochamo and Rio Puelo Valley or around the Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales.

Day 8: Puerto Varas / Castro
Take a bus towards Castro, the capital of the legendary Chiloé Island. Visit the city's famous Iglesia San Francisco de Castro and explore the Museo Regional de Castro

Day 9: Castro
Visit the Isla Quinchao, its numerous churches and artisans markets.

Day 10: Castro
Hike around the Parque Nacional Chiloé and discover its great variety of bird species,

Day 11: Castro / Futaleufu
Take a bus to Futaleufu. If you are travelling on a thursday you can also take a bus to Quellon, the terminus to the legendary Ruta 5. Then take a ferry to Chaiten at 3pm and another bus towards Futaleufu.

Day 12: Futaleufu
Visit the biggest private park of chile, the Parque Pumalin.

Day 13: Futaleufu
Enjoy a day of watersports in the beautiful surroundings of Futaleufu.

Day 14: Futaleufu / Coyhaique
Take a bus to Coyhaique.

Day 15: Coyhaique
Walk 1h30 to reach the Reserva Nacional Coyhaique, where you will get a beautiful panoramic view.

Day 16: Coyhaique
Enjoy a beach day at the Lago Elizalde, only 33 km away from Coyhaique or a kayak trip for those adventure-seekers.

Day 17: Coyhaique / Puerto Natales
Take a bus towards Puerto Natales

Torres del Paine Glacier
Day 18: Puerto Natales / Torres del Paine
Takes a bus towards Torres del Paine to start the famous W trek.

Day 19: Torres del Paine
W Trek and camping.

Day 20: Torres del Paine
W Trek and camping.

Day 21: Torres del Paine / Puerto Natales
End of the W trek and bus back to Puerto Natales

Day 22: Puerto Natales / Punta Arenas
Take a bus towards Punta Arenas. Discover the town, its museums, market, cemetery, plazas and panoramic views.

Day 23: Punta Arenas
Discover a penguin colony on an excursion to the Isla Magdalena.

Day 24: Punta Arenas
Enjoy a day at the Fuerte Bulnes and Puerto del Hambre.

Day 25: Punta Arenas / Puerto Williams
Take a boat or a plane to Puerto Williams. Visit the southernmost town in the world and its museum.

Day 26: Puerto Williams
Do the first part of the Dientes de Navarino hike in one day. If you have 5 more days, you can leave on the famous 5 day hike to the Dientes de Navarino.


What's Next?

Next: Patagonia: The Argentina Side
Or: Patagonia: The Chile Side